Stories Untold


squeaks_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title Stories Untold
Synopsis Two guests at the Praxis Ziggurat barter tales between each other.
Date August 19, 2019

Praxis Ziggurat

It is somewhat difficult to find a true haven of solitude anywhere within the austere halls of the Praxis Ziggurat. The long, angled veins of the looming arcology thrum with the rhythmic bustle of corporate life, as different in contrast to much of the still silent, still war-ravaged country outside the borders of Praxia as night from day.

But there are still relatively peaceful spots that are sown throughout the Ziggurat if one knows where to look. Pockets of respite where the cold thrum of routine seems to grow quieter and farther away for a time, in lieu of actually disappearing completely. Far, far on the uppermost echelons of an immense multi-tiered atrium serving as a hub sits one of these: a little-used, sunlit lounge that serves as an impeccable vantage point for people-watching, separated as it is from the streams of passerby dotting each of the many stories below by the barrier of a single glass balustrade.

Many sounds here are dimmed into murmurs, and Yi-Min's footsteps are unobtrusive as they approach, even lighter than they usually are. Nevertheless, she is not making an effort to hide herself. Her attire consists of a simple lace blouse and a skirt which flows darkly around her ankles rather than any type of business uniform, which is the first sign that she may just belong here a little bit less than her compatriots— aside from the more curious fact that she is poking around this rather remote spot in the first place. It could not conceivably be said to be on the way to anything, at least not anything important.

But she is not alone here. There is somebody already present amongst the couches arranged in comfortable, modern formation about the silent lounge. Somebody even smaller in figure and more clearly out-of-place than she.

"I thought I might find you here," she says gently, breaking a silence which had only barely and briefly been lifted by her subdued entrance into the space. The door to the outside world drifts shut again behind her.

Approaching footfalls are given notice, even when they're cast beneath the murmur of everyday doings. Years of living on the streets teaches one to be aware of even the smallest sounds. Squeaks’ head turns ever so slightly, blue eyes peek to the side from beneath a mop of red hair. But the stranger’s presence is dismissed almost immediately. New faces aren't completely uncommon and she's not required to greet people necessarily.

But then…

Vague suspicion angles up in a look when Yi-Min speaks. The teen doesn't move from her place but, almost catlike, decides she owns the couch she's seated on. And the room she's in. As much as a small-bodies creature can own anything of the sort.

Squeaks starts to form a reply, then swallows whatever words she'd started to choose. A breath leaves her in a light huff and she opts to wait for an explanation. No one should be looking for her, at least not to her knowledge. Last she checked she wasn't expected anywhere.

The profile of Yi-Min is small. Inoffensive. Almost too small in dimension, relative to the high sweeping arc of the ceiling, the clean, glistening spread of the walls around them. "Don't worry," she offers mildly when she catches the very understandable look of suspicion written on the girl's face. She treads further into the lounge, closing some of the distance between them, the warm shine of sunlight highlighting her features as she does so. "You're not in trouble, or anything like that. I just wanted some company. I thought you might, too."

With an understated tilt of her chin, Yi-Min indicates the couch sitting across from Squeaks, taking the opportunity to size up the younger girl's face at the zenith of the moment. "May I?"

Curiosity flickers beneath the mask of suspicion. Squeaks never thought she was in trouble, never thought anyone would come looking for her for company. It's almost enough to open the floodgates and let the questions spill.


She doesn't question why Yi-Min would be looking for company, looking for her. If she's patient, maybe that will be answered without being asked.

“Okay.” The teen shrugs, like none of it really matters, trying to play it casual. It's not like she owns the place anyway.

Squeaks may find herself surprised by that answer a bit more quickly than she had anticipated. Dr. Yeh doesn't like to leave people hanging; not when she just can be outright about things instead, and this is a somewhat rare opportunity these days for this to be the case.

Simple approaches, simple life.

She takes the single word of acquiescence with a small enigmatic smile, as though of gratitude, gracefully smoothing down her long skirt beneath her as she sits down in the spot that she had just indicated beforehand.

"I will admit, I was curious," she states in something of a mirror of Squeaks' own feelings, resting her hands neatly in her lap over her crossed legs and tilting her head just a minute fraction at the huddled figure of the teen. "About why you are here. Unless they are the family of employees,” and even then, “young people aren't exactly the most common here."

“I'm here because this is where I live.” Simply stated, matching the simpler approach. Squeaks’ eyebrows lift a little bit, questioning but not challenging. Her time in Praxia and habit of exploring has made her a familiar face in some places even if she is still an oddity. It's a thing she's aware of.

A minute is given to studying Yi-Min. A stranger, yes, but she doesn't find anything immediately threatening. Still, observant and cautious, the teen turns a little to better face the woman. “How come you're here?”

"I was shot," Yi-Min says promptly to what is, after all, a fair question to ask right back. Her expression eases in a distant, mildly mirthful connotation of not consciously holding anything back from her response. "Not that you could tell it from the way I look right now, but I nearly died. The healing facilities here are… rather remarkable." It's a wry understatement, and also something that will be immediately clear to Squeaks if she has even the least idea of what is being talked about.

Equally expected to Yi-Min is the way that Squeaks eyes her in turn. Unbothered by this, she appears to withdraw any lingering intensity from her own observation of things, closing her eyelids momentarily in the lazy warmth of that stripe of sunlight.

"How long is it you have lived here?"

“There's a lot of doctors here,” Squeaks confirms. Something in her tone implies an understanding, in a dismissive kind of way. She knows something of facilities, but what and how much are kept to herself.

Blue eyes stare at the unfamiliar woman with unashamed curiosity. The girl might be tempted to ask more questions instead of giving up some answers of her own. But fair is fair.

“A long while.” Squeaks tips her head toward a shoulder while watching Yi-Min. Maybe she's curious to see how her non definitive answers are taken. “What's your name?”

A tiny chuckle in the next bright intake of breath, and then, "You can call me Yi-Min. I'm sorry, I probably should have introduced myself as soon as I sat down." If she is at all bothered by the ambiguous nature of the responses she has been given, it doesn't show; if anything, it appears that this is exactly what she expects. Why would anyone, regardless of age, offer up all their secrets to a stranger who had just walked into the room?

With that same, casually amused undercurrent of self-awareness as before, Yi-Min accepts Squeaks' declaration of having lived here a 'long while' with a prudent nod. "No one might guess this if they looked at us, then. Of the two of us, I am the newcomer to Praxis— my home is far from here. Near the opposite coast, in fact, outside New York City." Because a home it is to her now, and this does not even register as something strange to her anymore.

"And you?" Name, of course.

“Squeaks. And I used to live in New York City before here.” The tone she uses to explain where she'd come from is in the timeless quality reserved for children. It's neither been all that long since her arrival in Praxia and yet it's been a lifetime too.

Still not finding any underlying threat or cause to be worried, the teen settles back in her seat. She slouches, kind of, leaning into the back of her chair and legs tucked criss-cross on the seat in front of her. “Why are you here?” It's about as non definitive as a question can get, with nothing to designate if here means this quiet lounge space or within the Ziggurat itself.

"Squeaks." This is repeated by Yi-Min in a tone that suggests amusement more than surprise, though both are certainly there. "Zi zi sheng ma," she voices as though to affirm this to herself in the form of a question, issuing the naturally singsong, onomatopoeic syllables lightly from between her teeth. Surely a nickname. Well, she can accept this.

"It's good to meet you, Squeaks." As Squeaks settles further into her position on the couch, Yi-Min appears to become more comfortably thoughtful herself, taking a moment to work out what might be specifically meant by the inquiry— she had after all answered both of the possible aspects, she thought. "I am recuperating here," is what she offers, just as relaxedly. "I will be returning to New York before too much more time has passed."

“Because you got shot.” Yes, she heard that the first time. But Squeaks is patient with her response, stating it as a confirmation and not a quip. “And you were curious about me.” She remembers that too, and her eyebrows push upward slightly. What Yi-Min hasn’t said is why, what prompted the curiosity that made the woman seek her out? There’s plenty more around the Ziggurat and Praxia than a little girl, and she knows it.

"People your age are not a common sight around here," is another earlier sentiment that Yi-Min echoes, still perfectly content to focus on Squeaks’ face with only an air of indirectness. "Though I have not been here, as someone who has been employed Praxis for a long time, I know much of what is happening about the Ziggurat without having to see it in person. But… there is still plenty more that I do not know." She trails this off with a new tinge of meaningfulness in her voice and a singular lift of her own brow, trusting that Squeaks will pick up the implications of this.

"Mr. Monroe has been rather mysterious about you. So I thought: why not ask you myself, as long as I am here?"

Squeaks’ gaze rests on Yi-Min for a long minute. She's not sure if she's ready to accept that reason, or if she should. But it seems like options are slim. It could really be that she really is enough of a rarity. Especially since Adam has mostly kept quiet about her.

“He's mysterious about a lot of things,” she settles on. It leaves the door open for more questions without committing her to accepting any reasons. “You work for Praxis? Are you a scientist? There's a lot of them here. One… one even turns into an ice dragon.”

"Yes, I am. And yes, I've met the 'ice dragon'— Dr. Cong." It's a description that is met by a more warmly knowing gaze from Yi-Min, though entertainment at the way it had been put dances in her dark eyes. "Tian a, he is something, isn't he. Did you know that he can neither eat nor drink? A high price to pay for such a form. Much too high, I think. And I am still unsure of how he manages to handle the issue of doorways."

Anticipating that Squeaks might likely have more questions about what she does as a scientist, Yi-Min gives her head a small noncommittal shake, though more as though she's in some thought than actually warding off the possible inquiry. "Another thing I am is a liaison… a go-between, between the people of Providence and the people here." If Squeaks had indeed lived in New York City, then, Yi-Min figures, she might have heard of that name as well.

“And he lives in the pool.” Which is clearly as strange as Squeaks makes it sound. What kind of person lives in a pool? She shakes her head at the idea of it, and never mind reconsidering all the strange places she's lived, those clearly don't count. “But. He lets me ask questions even if his answers aren't really answers.”

A tilt of her head sends her gaze upward as though the skylight were sudden much more interesting. “Why does Providence need a liaison to Praxis? It's so far away.” Not to mention unusual, but then those people from Providence seem unusual too. At least the ones she's seen in the market aren't normal. “They could try working with Raytech or Yamagato, they're closer.” Her gaze returns to Yi-Min, innocently curious. “But how come Praxis?”

There is a smaller smile from Yi-Min, one that hints appreciation at Squeaks being intelligent enough to recognize this.

"That is actually exactly why. Raytech and Yamagato are already well-established in the region, and likely would have no need of anything a place like Providence could possibly offer. Praxis… well." A pause— "At the stage they are at, there, let's just say that Praxis can get a little more mileage out of what a band of country bumpkins could do for them." And much more than that, Yi-Min does not seem likely to explain, at least as far as that part of the topic is concerned.

But Yi-Min does have a question of her own, one that it looks like she had kept since it had come up. "May I ask why you call yourself Squeaks? That is not your real name, surely."

“It's what everyone calls me, since forever.” This is stated plainly, a matter of fact. She's probably used to answering the question of her nickname. “Almost no one calls me my real name. Just Squeaks.” The teen’s shoulders bounce in a shrug.

“What could farmers do for Praxis?” It's an innocent enough question, posed as an idle musing that's far more interesting than what she's called. Squeaks squints a little bit as she watches Yi-Min.

Instead of answering straight away, Yi-Min just keeps that same nuanced expression on her face, leaning back into place and allowing her silence to grow cryptic.

"…How about this. A trade, of sorts. I shall reveal this answer to you if first you tell me what it is, exactly, that Praxis wishes with you." Whatever gaps in knowledge she might have regarding her employer, she knows for a fact that Praxis is not in the business of housing children for charity's sake.

This strange girl with a strange nickname has a purpose here.

A trade. Squeaks’ eyes squint a fraction. She could go first, as requested, but can she hold Yi Min up to her end of the bargain? It's a gamble, but so is living. She studies the woman, the scientist of sorts, silent for a long couple of moments.

“Nothing,” she eventually answers. Simple and honest, Praxis isn't why she's here. “I'm an unexpected arrival. I was brought here because this is where I could find answers.”

The girl lifts her brows following her own semi-cryptic a response, inviting Yi Min to honor the other end of the deal.

"Farmers," Yi-Min says, "Are often willing to get their hands soiled in ways that few others are willing to consider." It is as vague an answer as she could give while still technically fulfilling the letter of the deal between them. But then, Squeaks had been equally vague and evasive— and both of them know this.

Tit for tat. All things considered, at least she is being quite open about how she is choosing to go about playing this game.

"What answers were you brought here in search of?"

“Ones that are dangerous to talk about.” No sarcasm or dismissal, Squeaks’ answer is solemn and to the point. She was warned to not talk too much about it, if she needed to talk about it at all. “I didn’t know before, but now…” she leans forward slightly, like to share a secret, “it’s something about the voices. The ones from the radio.” Maybe that’s cryptic enough to escape the wrong kind of notice.

The teen sits back again and pulls her feet up so she’s sitting criss-cross in her seat. “That’s mostly it. Adam found out for me.”

It's also cryptic enough for Yi-Min to lift her eyebrow a little, then shake her head with an equal measure of reserve. The meaning of this is something that seems to have escaped her. "There are many mysteries that abound in these strange days," she murmurs, almost more to herself than to Squeaks.

She also does not ask another question of Squeaks. Not straight away, at least. "Adam seems to be afraid of something," is what she chooses to divulge, eyes trained thoughtfully on the girl. "There are too many answers that are— increasingly dangerous to talk about here. I wonder if fate may just have it that these are one and the same."

The murmuring is noticed, but Squeaks looks aside. Just like closing a window against an approaching rain, she chooses to shutter her answers and speculations. There's risk enough of someone overhearing, although it's possible she or Yi-Min would notice an eavesdropper. But common belief toward the voices was to talk about them would draw their attention. She'd argued that it was impossible to share information and learn about them without talking, but now…

If it has Adam rattled, she's not going to risk further notice.

“Maybe.” The teen’s answer is almost offhanded in its deliverance. Maybe acting unconcerned will avoid attention of the bad kind. “Maybe it's all just a game, to keep people guessing.” Her shoulders bounce with a shrug. “He's really smart. And old. Very old. He's got lots of experience with science things and histories. Probably because he lived through it.”

"A game not unlike the one you are playing, perhaps, to keep me guessing," Yi-Min notes. But it's not an accusation. It does not carry the tension of one. Instead, it sounds almost like a laugh, easy and playful.

"In Chinese culture, respect for one's elders is an important thing. With just how elderly Adam is, perhaps it stands to reason that he is worthy of the utmost respect." Something very faintly droll in Yi-Min's gaze suggests that she maybe doesn't quite believe this herself, but it's a fleeting thing to grasp.

"In any case, you sound as though you admire him." That’s a statement, but one that contains just a nuance of a question. Yi-Min could not have known just how on the nose this display of filial piety really was.

“I'm curious about him,” Squeaks responds with a shrug, because who wouldn't be curious about their biological parent. Not that she says so. The reason she offers up is, “He's got really good stories from the past. He's also been teaching me how to sword fight.” Among other things, those are the most interesting for anyone to hear. No one wants to know about a teenager being introduced to subterfuge and conspiracy. Now there's a real game.

"How to sword fight," Yi-Min recites with genuine curiosity, sweeping her gaze up and down Squeaks' skinny form again. This little one was full of surprises. Subterfuge and conspiracy were always interesting, no matter whom they were being introduced to, but her conversational partner was right: this was something else.

The only reason Yi-Min could fathom for Adam being so interested in this freckly teenager is if she was being groomed for something. An aura of further rumination surfaces in the space behind Yi-Min's eyes. "And how is this going? Any favorites among these stories?"

Her shoulders lift slowly, unsure but noncommittal. All the stories is what Squeaks might normally say, but she takes a second to really think on the question. Does she have any absolute favorites? It's hard to say, having a deep appreciation for all of them. So she relies on her shrug to fill the space while she thinks back.

“There's really good ones about Kinsei,” she settles on. She remembers the first time coming across Kinsei, it was about him and the dragon. That book — her sister lent it to her — fast became one of the young teen’s favorites. “He told me one about Kinsei and the princess once. And about traveling the world as the greatest sword fighter ever.”

Yi-Min rests her chin atop one of her curled hands, noting the unspoken difficulty Squeaks has in choosing a favorite story— a pause that makes her smile slightly, if more inwardly than outwardly.

"This is a story I'm unfamiliar with," she says. "Care to share? In exchange… well. I have some stories of my own that you may or may not find interesting." And a good deal of time to share them as well, at least over the interval of the next several days.

Such an allotment of time was a rare gift to be taken advantage of, and this certainly did not seem the worst of ways to do it.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License